Food, family and fame: social science graduate advocating for change

Published in Issue 1 - 2017

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Jules Allen

Jules Allen

As a MasterChef contestant in the 2013 series, Jules Allen, who has three children and has fostered 32 children, was passionate about food as a way to connect family. These days the Southern Cross University graduate uses her media profile to raise awareness of the wellbeing of young people.

Jules talks about young people in crisis, the foster care system and child protection across several media platforms: as a TED Talks presenter, co-host on Studio 10, editorial writer for The Herald Sun, blogger for The Carousel and KidsSpot, and with guest appearances on The Project and Q&A.

“Government policies and procedures are letting our kids down,” Jules said.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people. Until that statement is no longer true then nothing will stop me from repeating it every time I get on the stage.”

Jules had been working in youth support and child protection for several years when she relocated from Melbourne to the NSW North Coast. Wanting to boost her TAFE qualifications to gain senior positions, she started a Bachelor of Social Science at the University’s Lismore campus, juggling full-time study with work and being a parent.

“A degree makes you crave learning and knowledge. I loved the process. I was really humbled by a new language. Theories of sociology helped me make sense of what was going on and to see issues from a different perspective. It taught me a lot about communication and the art of listening and asking questions. I found my people within the degree: we were interested in how society works and what we could do to change it.”

Jules said she was indebted to the teaching staff in the School of Arts and Social Sciences.

“Lecturers like Dr Sandy Darab and Dr Yvonne Hartman were incredibly inspiring, humble and intelligent women. And they were accessible.

“A small university worked really well for me. I got lost in the crowd, literally, at metropolitan universities and dropped out twice, so going back to university again at 30 was pretty daunting. The difference I found with Southern Cross University was that I was a person. And I got to sit under trees in the breaks.”

After graduation Jules worked as a school counsellor and later ran a private practice counselling teenagers in crisis and their families.

Jules appeared on the reality television cooking show MasterChef in 2013. She later reflected on her life and the MasterChef experience in an episode of the ABC’s Australian Story.

Jules moved back to Melbourne in 2014 and is now an ambassador for both Adopt Change (founded by Deborra-lee Furness) and Foster Care Australia.

“I was ready to make change on a larger scale. The degree helped with language and confidence,” she said.

“Now I question more than before I did the degree. The degree taught me there’s so much more to know and so many people worth learning from.”

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